Rogers Cup Toronto: Dominant Djokovic wins unprecedented 30th Masters
World No1 Novak Djokovic beats Kei Nishikori to win a 30th Masters title in the Rogers Cup in Toronto
After almost 10 days of wayward weather and an unexpectedly depleted draw that lost three of its top four men before the tournament had even begun, final Sunday did not begin auspiciously for the Rogers Cup.
Rain, and more rain, threatened the afternoon start that would see the world’s best, Novak Djokovic, the man who has been No1 for over two unbroken years and would be playing in the 14th final of his last 15 Masters, go for a record 30th title at this elite level of the men’s tennis.
The mighty Serb came into this final on a 50-4 winning run, 32-1 on hard courts, having already won the Doha and Australian Open titles, back-to-back Indian Wells and Miami Masters, then on clay, the Madrid title, Rome final, and the French Open crown.
Now only Kei Nishikori could halt him, could deny Djokovic a fourth Rogers Cup and that 30th Masters. The Japanese man had beaten him before, twice, but had lost the last eight of their 11 matches. It was a challenge of the highest order, but the Nishikori was having a good season, give or take the injury problems that have often peppered his career.
The nimble Nishikori had only once before been to Toronto, though he did have a successful run in the Rogers Cup in Montreal last year, beating Nadal to reach the semis.
Coming here, he also faced injury problems through the grass swing, withdrawing at Halle and retiring in the fourth round of Wimbledon with a rib injury, and he opted not to defend his Washington title last week.
However, leading into the summer, he put together some fine runs to consolidate him firmly in the top six. Hard courts in particular proved successful, with the Memphis title, the Miami final, the quarters at Indian Wells, before on clay, reaching the final in Barcelona and two semis at the prestigious Madrid and Rome Masters—losing to Djokovic on both occasions.
Now he was after his first Masters title from his third final.
With the sun at last trying to makes its final appearance, the two men stayed on level terms in the early stages, but Djokovic had been honing his relentless length and width from the baseline throughout the week, and come the title match he was in near flawless form.
He broke in the sixth game, and almost broke again in the eighth, but Nishikori aced to hold for 3-5. He could not break back—indeed Djokovic’s serving, one of the most improved areas of his game during the last two years, was almost impenetrable—and the Serb led, 6-3, having made just four unforced errors.
The break came even sooner in the second set, in the third game, but Nishikori responded in fine style, just as he had against Stan Wawrinka in the semis, with some aggressive returning and net charges.
Two blistering return-of-serve winners and a forehand winner down the line got the break back, 3-3, and he looked in great shape as he used his big one-two serve-and-forehand plays to hold for love.
The increase in pace and attack from Nishikori briefly shook Djokovic, and a few errors crept in: With the clock at one hour, the Japanese man led in the set for the first time, 5-4.
But Djokovic, as has become he norm, responded in kind, acing a love hold. He then sensed some tightness in the Japanese serve, returned with extra venom, and drew a couple of errors to break. He had only to serve out the match, and he did so comfortably, 7-5.
The champion raised his hands aloft as Nishkori took his seat and hung his head. The Japanese man had shown flashes of the brilliance that got him to this stage, but 28 errors to Djokovic’s 18 was never going to be good enough.
What is there left to say about the dominance that Djokovic has imposed on this sport? He has left nothing to chance, no stone unturned, in the pursuit of athletic and tactical perfection, and these he days has the bearing and self-belief of a man who will not panic even against the most challenging opposition. He was not perfect in his opener against Gilles Muller, nor in his quarter-final against Tomas Berdych, but by the time he faced Gael Monfils and Nishikori, he was ready.
He now heads to Rio to try and claim a single piece of gold that is missing from his resume, and then on to Cincinnati to put to bed one more record: the complete set of Masters crowns.
And right now, it is tough to see anyone stopping him from achieving both.